WALTON, George (1540-1606), of Great Staughton, Hunts.
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Family and Education
b. 1540, 1st s. of Thomas Walton of Great Staughton by Elizabeth. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1554. m., s.p. legit. suc. gd.-fa. 1555. Kntd 1604.
J.p. Hunts. c.1583-7, from c.1601; escheator, Camb. and Hunts. Feb.-Nov. 1594, 1604-5.
The Waltons had been established at Great Staughton since the fourteenth century, frequently representing the county in the Commons. One ancestor did so for 30 years, and was Speaker in 1425. Walton himself came near to losing the estate, for, in his own words, as ‘a young man, void of learning and knowledge in the common affairs of the world’ he almost sold the fee simple of his birthright to one Thomas Beverley, ‘a crafty and subtle man’, and when this fell through, Walton perhaps thinking better of it, he gave the same Beverley a 21-year lease of the manor on advantageous terms in 1562. Worse, Beverley contrived for Walton to be bound in the sum of £300 to perform some unreasonable conditions in the lease. Beverley himself re-assigned the lease of the manor to a John Farewell in 1579. In 1582 a Sir Richard Dyer as lessee instituted proceedings against Walton, claiming that he had forcibly entered the rectory manor house and damaged a conduit and water course. In the same year James Farewell sued Sir James Dyer for possession of the rectory. Where Walton resided all this time has not been ascertained, but he continued active in the county, even representing it in the Parliament of 1586, where the only reference to him in the proceedings concerns his complaint against a Mr. Wingfield who had, Walton said, offered ‘to draw his weapon upon him and gave evil language’. What a disgrace if this were Edward Wingfield, Walton’s fellow knight of the shire! Perhaps it was, for Wingfield’s father had lost possession of his estates for leading ‘a wasteful course of life’ and Edward Wingfield was an aggressive man, reprimanded by the Privy Council both before and after the 1586 incident, at odds with both Cecil and the Queen, and destined to spend some of his last days in the Fleet for debt. Unfortunately D’Ewes’s summary of the incident does not make it clear whether or not the Mr. Wingfield was a member of the House. That he ‘was brought into this House to answer his misdemeanour’ and finally ‘discharged’ could apply as well to an outsider brought to the bar to answer a charge of breach of privilege as to a Member committed to the custody of the serjeant-at-arms to cool his heels for a day or two. Wingfield claimed that Walton had been an accessory to the murder of his brother, that ‘he could not well take it and knew not what might happen’.
Perhaps a factor in Walton’s being elected for the shire was his close friendship with Oliver Cromwell. The two men jointly led the Huntingdonshire levies to the camp at Tilbury at the time of the Armada, and Cromwell erected a monument to Walton in Great Staughton church. Whatever had happened in the interim, when Walton died on 4 June 1606 he was in possession of this rich manor with its 300 acres of arable land, 80 of meadow, 200 of pasture, and 100 of wood, its three mills and a dovecote. Walton remembered in his will, dated 18 Jan., proved 14 June that year, at least eight household servants, a miller, a shepherd, a brewer, and a herd boy, as well as the poor of Great and Little Staughton, Kimbolton and St. Neots and the prisoners in Huntingdon gaol. Oliver Cromwell, the executor, his ‘honourable good friend’, received Walton’s goods,
to this end and purpose that hospitality shall be kept in the manor house of Great Staughton, and to give that entertainment he may conveniently to my ancient friends for the space of three years next after my decease.
C142/105/82, 337/112; VCH Hunts. ii. 14, 26, 357-8, 359-60; Lansd. 53, f. 189; C3/191/80; D’Ewes, 416; Nichols, Progresses Jas. I, i. 456; PCC 33 Stafford.